Black History IS American History

Karen Groce-Horan is the Senior Director of Diversity Equity Inclusion Priorities at the United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley

I, Karen Groce-Horan, am committing to living this February of 2021, the month I call Black History IS American History Month in an altogether new way.  When I contemplated writing this first official blog post, I had a different plan in mind.  As I meditated on it, my thoughts took a whole new surprising direction.  As a Black woman with West Indian and African American roots, I have lived a life where I did not see my story in the K-12 history (His-Story) books I was educated in, for history has been written by the victors. Upon realizing and reconciling this, somewhere in my early 20’s, I committed to a journey of learning, growing, understanding, and knowing the history of my ancestors, on whose shoulders I stand.  On whose very resilience and strength my own existence is founded.

This February, United Way of Mass Bay will step into a month of learning very much like the month of October 2020, when as an organization we took a 21-day journey to justice to support our diversity equity and inclusion (DEI) priorities.  Learning about Black history should absolutely be an ongoing intentional effort to expand our boundaries of understanding.  Take the journey with us as we share useful resources to learn from, use, and act on.  We will launch our monthly Diversity-Equity-Inclusion (DEI) webinar series, United for Justice on Feb. 18th with Where #BLM Meets #MeToo – the intersection of these pivotal movements.

So how will this month of February in this year of 2021 be different for me?  I am going to challenge myself to live outside my comfort zone and expand beyond my echo chamber, exploring viewpoints different from my own.  This YouTube video, Black man under cover got me thinking about this. It also reminds minds me of the 2018 movie BlacKkKlansman, based on the life of police officer Ron Stallworth. So while I continue the internal work of learning and growing in my understanding of history, I will also explore resources that stretch me, that challenge my ability to find a lens into that far side of the spectrum of my anti-racism perspective. My goal is to find a better understanding of the lingering existence of racist views and perhaps why there are people that hold fast to mistruths about race-based constructs.  My goal is to bring change and we cannot change what we do not understand.      

What will I find, what might I discover, what will I share and discuss with others?  Will it bring reconciliation with an older brother, Black with skin a rich, deep hue of brown like mine, whose political views couldn’t be further from my own; given all that we have lived, witnessed, experienced and been especially astounded by in the months and years leading up to Jan. 6, 2021?  These are the perspectives I hope to explore and learn more about.  I don’t necessarily expect it to cause any great shift in my views, thoughts or opinions.   I just hope it can shed light – the light that Amanda Gorman, 2021 inaugural poet, first Youth Poet Laureate speaks of in her poem The Hill We Climb – “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we are brave enough to be it.” 

This February, the month I now call Black History IS American History Month, may we all be brave enough; may we find truth and reconciliation on this journey to justice; may we strive to Live United. 

Join United Way of Mass Bay on this journey, share resources with others and decide what action you can take to bring change and make a difference to dismantle racism and the systems that continue to oppress people according to the race they were born into.    

Some resources I will be spending time with- 

February Daily Article
An Entire Library Related to This Month
Globe Black Film Festival
Poetry and Spoken Word on History, Liberty, Justice